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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Best Teacher

I learned early in life that “experience is the best teacher“. I’ve heard it many times over in the movies, I’ve read it on those generic cardboard cards my Aunts used to send me during my high school retreats, I have even received an antique Friendster testimonial with just that line written on it, glammed up with glitters and roses, as if that would make the line even more believable.

So, no, I’m not going to put you through that all over again. This article isn’t at all about experience. It is about a real teacher, an instructor, a second mother.

Ever since I could remember, I didn’t really take a liking towards the teachers that I was forced to deal with as a student. It didn’t help that the teacher who greeted me on my first day in “big school” was butt-ugly and resembled Skeletor (of course, I now know it wasn’t her fault that she wasn’t exactly attractive to all seven year olds), and that she labeled me as a disturbed child (she asked us to color the first page of our Religion book. I picked Black and stuck with it until every nook and cranny of the page looked like a lump of coal. She says that is tantamount to disturbia).

I was always a bit rebellious; I hated almost every authority figure I was faced with, and my teachers were always the easiest target.

I had always thought that teachers just did what they had to do--for a living. I never really believed the crap that that people said about teachers teaching as a vocation. I never took time to really get to know my teachers and I really didn’t appreciate the real person behind the android who was yapping away in front of me everyday for 10 months.

That all changed when I met Ms Corbit.

She was my Math teacher in 3rd year High School. I belonged to a class filled with wild weirdos. We ate popcorn and chips during History class (the teacher didn’t exactly enjoy that our chewing didn’t have a “silent mode”). Half of the class excused themselves to “urinate”, whenever we had a quiz (trust me, I am not exaggerating). We passed around glasses of coke during Chemistry class; one of my classmates even threw a bag of Lifesavers in the air for all of us to catch during an exam. We slept and snored during Religion class; we held fashion shows and walk-offs during Filipino class; we made, ate and shared sandwiches during English. We were every teacher’s nightmare.

We intentionally did those to annoy our teachers so they would stop all their (seemingly) senseless blabber and we could finally be heard, or maybe get some sleep. But not during Math. We loved Ms Corbit. She respected us, and we, in turn, respected her.

One day, one of my classmates asked her “why?” “Why study Math and functions, formulas, and computations, when we know we wouldn’t need them in the ‘Real World’?”

The question was familiar. Every smart-alecky classmate I had since Grade 5 had already asked our Math teacher this same question. Our teachers usually answered, irritably saying “that is what is required by CHED”, “that is what the head teacher tells us to teach”, or “that is what is written in the prospectus”.

Sometimes, we’d fell insulted that our teacher didn’t trust our intellectual capabilities to understand the co0mplexities of the Educational system in the country. Sometimes, we’d think our teacher was just as clueless as we were about the matter. But most of the time, we would just shrug it off. We were so used to this type of answer. We didn’t even bother to pry further on the topic because, well, we were disappointed and it just seemed to piss our teachers off.

But unlike all other Math teachers before, Ms Corbit seemed unfazed by the question. She actually seemed to welcome it. And then she smiled and said:

“We do not teach you all these formulas and theories because you will need them in your future lives, because, honestly, I don’t really think you would. However, without you knowing it, Math has already taught you how to analyze, to solve problems on your own. You may not know it or realize it now, but Math has already helped you improve your common sense. And that is what you will need later on in life. And that is why I try to teach you Math. You may not memorize the formulas and the theories, but the way I may help mold your mind, that is what I truly want to impart to you.”

I don’t know if those were her exact words, or if she had said it as eloquently, but that was certainly the message she wanted to get across. And for the first time I had fallen in love with the concept of a teacher who truly wanted to be our second Mother.

I felt like she truly wanted to look after us, and wanted to look out for us even after the school year was over.

I still suck at Math, I never really mastered those formulas and concepts, and I still have no Mathematical inclinations to speak of, but Ms Corbit left me with one of the more powerful lessons I’ve learned.

She taught me to look at the bigger picture. She taught me to never stop asking, she taught me the value of independence, she taught me not to settle until I am truly satisfied. More importantly, she taught me that teachers are supposed to be friends, not annoying, androidical (emotionless, heartless, unsympathetic) enemies.

And only a great teacher can teach you all those, with five heartfelt sentences.


I am writing this to inspire teachers to do better and to treat students with the same respect that they would require from them. Please do not underestimate your students, they are usually wiser than you imagine.

To all the students: try to appreciate your teachers. They are real people who can commit mistakes. I didn’t believe it at first, but I have actually created special friendships with my teachers after Ms Corbit. So please give your teachers a break, and a chance. Get to know them more, not only as the people who will be responsible for grading you, but for the people who will have touched your journey through life with ideas, challenges and, maybe even, a special friendship.

Catch Confessions of a Partyphile (the radio show) on 105.9 Mix FM (or every Wednesdays, 6 to 9 in the PM.

For comments, suggestions, questions (your queries are more than welcome) and more confessions from this Partyphile log on to

And please add me up on Plurk, I’m in terrible need of a Karma increase.


janna deja said...

the best teacher(s) for me

is Ms.Racquel (trigo and geom teacher) makes us learn something about the environment and discipline.

Ms.Junie (social studies teacher) parang kabarkada lang namin at the same time with matching discipline

Anonymous said...

you should show this entry to miss corbit. :) you'll make her extra happy for sure.